Gahanna Lincoln High School boys basketball coach Tony Staib has fond memories of his 2009-10 team that made it to a Division I state semifinal.
Thoughts of that team, which went 26-1 and featured future collegians Rob Brandenberg (Virginia Commonwealth), Anthony Jackson (Stony Brook) and Stevie Taylor (Ohio University), popped into Staib's mind March 8 shortly after the Lions received a district runner-up trophy.
The second-seeded Lions lost to third-seeded Upper Arlington 55-49 in a district final at the Fairgrounds Coliseum to finish 22-4.
"They remind me of our 2010 final four team," Staib said of the Golden Bears, who improved to 24-1 and won their first district title since 2007. "They all can dribble, pass and shoot just like that 2010 team could. They execute well and they shoot it well."
Gahanna beat 27th-seeded St. Charles 53-33 in a district semifinal March 4 at Marysville to advance to a district final for the fourth time in five seasons.
Kevin Vannatta scored 26 points in the district final for UA, which made 20 of 35 shots from the floor.
Javon Bess had 20 points and six rebounds, Nick Ward had 13 points and five rebounds and Manny Powell added 10 points for Gahanna.
The game included 12 lead changes and four ties.
"All of (UA's) players are on the same page, and that comes with experience and playing together for a long time," Staib said. "I thought we did a good job of using our strength and attacking it inside. It was a great district final game."
Bowlers hope to build on finishes
Highlighting the boys and girls bowling season was that both teams made it to the district tournament.
"We were totally excited about that," coach Kelly Ferguson said. "Both teams did great."
The girls earned a third-place finish in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-North Division at 9-2, behind Westerville South (11-0) and Westerville Central (9-1). In the OCC-Cardinal, they were fourth (2-3) of six teams behind champion Westerville South (5-0).
In the Division I sectional Feb. 21 at Eastland Lanes, the Lions placed seventh (3,012) behind champion Briggs (3,345) as the top 20 teams in the 37-team event advanced to district.
At district March 1 at Eastland Lanes, the girls placed eighth (2,886) behind champion Briggs (3,424) as the top four teams qualified for state.
Senior Erika Reed finished 20th (472) at district. Other key seniors were Mickayla Moyer and Erin Holt.
Eligible to return are juniors Katie Bugenstein, Anna Retherford and Samantha Toale and freshman Breanna White.
The boys team tied Big Walnut for 10th (5-8) in the 14-team COHSBC-North behind champion Westerville South (11-2) and placed fifth (1-4) in the six-team OCC-Cardinal behind champion Westerville South (5-0).
The Lions then were eighth (3,529) of 40 teams at sectional behind champion Walnut Ridge (3,805) and 13th (3,312) at district behind champion Westerville South (3,815).
Senior Shane Hull Jr. was Gahanna's top district finisher, placing 19th (552).
Eligible to return are juniors Conner Hammonds, Alex Kasson and Brandon Pierce and freshmen Drew Alzner, Jeff Avery, Kaelan Celetano and Kolton Ebright.
Several top swimmers eligible to return
Of the girls swimming and diving team's four state representatives, two were seniors in Morgan Belli and Kirstyn Thomas.
Belli placed fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 5.21 seconds) and eighth in the 200 individual medley (2:05.13) in the Division I state meet Feb. 20-22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Belli also swam on the 24th-place 200 medley relay (1:52) with Thomas, sophomore Regan Nolan and freshman Ally Wharton, and Wharton was 19th in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.47).
Gahanna tied for 21st (26) behind champion Cincinnati Ursuline (281) as 52 teams scored.
"I definitely think it was great for Morgan to have teammates there competing with her," coach Erin Darrah said. "We think this is the first relay Gahanna has had at state in maybe more than 20 years. It's awesome for Ally to be (at state in an individual event) as a freshman."
The girls team scored 354.5 points to win the OCC-Ohio Division meet Jan. 25 at Thomas Worthington ahead of Reynoldsburg (222), Pickerington North (221), Lancaster (157.5), Pickerington Central (135) and Grove City (85).
In a sectional Feb. 8 at Thomas, the girls were third (183) of 13 teams behind the host Cardinals (213) and Delaware (207).
On Feb. 15 in the district meet at Ohio State, the girls were eighth (119) behind champion Upper Arlington (522.5) as 24 teams scored.
Also eligible to return for the girls are junior Ashley Twigg and freshman Dominique Vaccani in swimming and sophomore diver Lauren Payne.
The boys finished fourth (209) behind Pickerington North (330), Grove City (232) and Lancaster (211) and ahead of Pickerington Central (132) and Reynoldsburg (27) in the league meet.
At sectional, the boys were seventh (125) of 11 teams behind champion New Albany (207). The boys then scored 11 points to place last of 25 teams that scored at district, which was won by St. Charles (304).
Freshman Major Belli and sophomore Peter Reventlow should be the top returnees. Also eligible to return are juniors Owen Mair and Alex Schultz and freshman Ryan Shaw.